Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Sarver,

I currently have a request for a full read of my manuscript from senior editor Tom Colgan at Penguin Books and I hope to secure representation before I submit. It’s a 76,000 word YA high concept project entitled The Wives of Lucifer and I am confident it can cross into commercial women’s fiction as well.

As an author I ask teens to seriously reflect on their religious beliefs and consider alternate theories regarding the existence of a god-figure who rewards or punishes them for their behaviors. I have studied many religions over the years as well as astrology and reincarnation and I believe the more teens question established tenets the more responsible they will be for their own actions and the more compassionate they will be toward others.

At the age of seventeen, Olivia Miller is dead, again, and stuck on the dismal Astral Plane to await rebirth. Disenchanted with the never-ending cycle of life and death she’s thrilled when the almighty Scepters free her from another stint in purgatory and enlist her in their elite legion of soul-savers known as The Travelers. As a newly minted soldier in the City of the Sun, Olivia is charged with carrying out the Scepters’ mission to rescue mortals from unscheduled deaths and prevent them from falling prey to Lucifer’s minions. Now she’s immortal, with an exciting future, powerful magic, and a new love. It soon becomes apparent Olivia cannot control her new powers and has the uncanny knack for summoning lightning, a talent possessed solely by The Prince of Darkness. This mysterious tie to Lucifer not only worries Olivia but the Scepters as well. But Lucifer’s two evil wives, the flame-haired Lilith, and Ravana, The Immortal Queen of Witchcraft, have no intention of embracing another sister-wife, fully intent on preventing the suddenly omnipotent Olivia from getting anywhere near their husband. Besides, they have big plans, plans that will bring both the Scepters and Lucifer to their knees. Meanwhile, Michael, the Ruling Scepter protects a dark secret about Olivia’s true identity and fears the consequences if she ever discovers the truth. He’s waited a thousand years to harness her magnificent aura and will do everything in his power to keep Olivia from falling victim to the Underworld. For both sides know, Olivia holds enough latent power to either enslave or destroy them all.

My background as a science teacher allowed me to incorporate scientific dogma into creating magical powers for my characters and created a deep well of ideas to draw upon in crafting an inimitable vision of the Afterlife. As a high school assistant principal for twenty years I spent endless hours with troubled teens and believe I truly understand their angst as they struggle to become happy and productive adults in our society.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



Prelude to the Storm
April 30, 1802

The body of the boy floated in the inky water, his vacant eyes black as the sea. She was too late to save him. The wood pilings creaked, shifting under her feet. The stinging rain slapped at her. The needle-like droplets pelted the threadbare patch at the nape of her neck, her naked hand, her frozen cheek; slapped at her like her sister. She wanted to cry, not for herself, but for the boy.

Olivia faced her twin sister, their matching dark eyes flared with anger, their chestnut-colored hair whipping wildly in the howling wind. Today was their tenth birthday, but their father, the town drunk, couldn’t care less. Their mother died in childbirth and most nights the neighbors took pity on them throwing them a few scraps of food. Their father had threatened to sell them into servitude nearly every day for the last three years and Olivia thought that might actually be an improvement.

Spying the bloody knife in her sister’s hand, Olivia screamed. “You killed him?”

Her sister’s face looked scary angry. “I did! And I’d do it again!”

“But, why?”

Once, she’d caught her sister killing a cat and tried to stop her. They got into a fistfight and a street merchant separated them and sent them home. Olivia considered her sister just plain evil and this only served to confirm her suspicions.

“Because he annoyed me. He always annoys me. And you always take his side!”

Before Olivia could say anything, she saw her sister’s gaze shift to something behind her and turned to see a tall figure, his eyes blue fire. He wore the clothing of a rich man and radiated such intense heat she took a step backward.


Lanette said...

The first paragraph of your query is great. This shows there's interest in your story. However, I think you should lose the second paragraph because that's not story. Reel us in with story rather than themes and beliefs.

As to the body of the query, you've stuffed too much into it. The purpose of a query is to entice the agent to read the book; it's not necessary to relay the novel in a way you would with a synopsis.

In the first page, there's too much back story. I think it would be better to keep us fixed on Olivia and her sister in the opening and then weave the backstory elements later. BTW, is this a prologue? I wonder because the date is inconsistent with the genre.

Rosalyn said...

I agree with Lanette--the query feels long to me. I would cut the second paragraph entirely, because the agent (at this point) doesn't need to know your purpose and philosophy behind the book. Similarly, I'd trim the personal paragraph at the end of the query--just include the details that are relevant to your writing for young adults.

The main paragraph of the query is also a little hard to read--both because it's a solid block of text and also because so much is going on there. I've found it easier, in writing queries, to focus just on the most important plot arc. Perhaps you could cut the stuff about Olivia dying again and focus instead on the point at which things start to go wrong: she's been enlisted by the scepters but she can't control her magic.

The premise here sounds exciting--and I think it will be all the more attractive if the query is streamlined a little to make the ideas stand out.

I like that the 250 words starts with such a high-stakes moment, but it did throw me just a little, because it didn't correspond with anything mentioned in the query (Olivia's death, the Scepters, etc.)

Mim said...


First congrats on having this with an editor. Howe exciting. Your query is long, and I would completely cut the second paragraph. That information can come up in an interview with the agent. I may also edit out the part about being a high school assistant principal.

As for the meat of the query, you build a up a good solid world with high stakes. I may break it up into two paragraphs to help things flow a bit better.

The first 250 words are interesting, I may cut back on the backstory in the second paragraph as suggested above. this can come out in conversation or later. Move forward into the action.

I think it is an interesting premise, and I would read on.

MC #24

Guzin1 said...

Hmm.... my previous comments on this one disappeared. User error, no doubt.

First, congrats on the Penguin Books read. And good luck!

As far as the query goes I agree with the other comments and would lose the second and last paragraph. And the third paragraph may flow better if its broken up a little. Still, I loved the concept and would definitely read more, especially after seeing the first page. Lots of tension :-)

Jessica Peterson said...

Unfortunately I have nothing new to add, I agree with the other comments. The query is quite long and although it's well written and didn't leave me with any questions, I felt it was a bit more like a synopsis. I personally enjoyed the personal bits but perhaps an agent might feel differently.

Your 250 was good. In your first paragraph, the rain 'slapped' at her comes up twice, I think it would read smoother if you got rid of one. Also, when I found out Olivia had a twin sister, I was shocked because this wasn't mentioned in the query at all. The only other thing was 'scary angry' made me stop for a minute. Maybe it's just me but the term didn't flow well. Other than that, I loved your 250! I definitely want to read more.

Best of luck!

Melissa Sarver said...

The query starts off well but the third paragraph is too long and mired in telling us the entire plot. Tighten this paragraph - possibly separate it into two but still trim some of what is there. I would eliminate the second paragraph. I don't need to know your motivation in writing the novel - get to the pitch of the actual story sooner. To me this feels more like fantasy than women's commercial fiction but I suppose it could crossover those lines as well.

The first paragraph of your 250 is powerful and sets the tone right away. I'm curious to know who this boy was and what caused his death. But I think you introduce too much too quickly - the dead boy, the twin sister, the tall figure approaching ... I'd slow the pacing down a bit so your events and characters' actions carry more weight.